I need a new wallet. Preferably something three nanometers thin. My wallet has only the basics; no family pictures. You may think this is a sign of indifference or callous denial of the importance of my loved ones, but never in my life have I seen a man take out his wallet and look at the pictures of his wife and children. Perhaps they do when they are trapped with no escape and the zombies are coming. I can’t say. But if I want to look at my wife and child I have dozens of photos, and movies, on my personal computation slab in the other pocket. In the days when people owned ten, maybe 15 photos total, I can see the point of sticking one in the crinkly cellophane pane, but we’re beyond that. What if I lose the phone? you ask. Then I will have to rely on memory. All I want in my wallet is the necessary ID, the card I use to exchange theoretical units of monetary value, the American Express card which exists as a get-out-of-jail card, really - no limit, so if I drive my car into a yacht, and the owner demands instant reimbursement, I can do that. There’s also the backup card in case the other two fail. That’s the humiliation card. If it has to be used because the others are declined - for tech-failure reasons, mind you, I’m good for them - then there will be that moment of cold judgment for the man who’s obviously made such a mess of things his standard cards are dead, but there’s still a half-pint of blood left on this one. And you’re buying, what? Box wine? How nice for you.

My father had the same wallet for twenty years, or more. It was as thick as a Leon Uris paperback. It had everything. I can understand carrying around your pilot’s license and hazmat fuel-transport licenses, yes; that makes sense. But a card stating you had been discharged from the Navy? Probably not going to be one of those day-to-day concerns, unless there was fear in the fifties of roving shanghai press-gangs. Oh, you have the card? Sorry, man. Didn’t know. Well, anchors away, and all that. Like many people from his generation, he carried his Social Security card, a talisman against the penury of the latter bony days. Only people over 75 carry the card, I think. To new workers, the idea of having a card at all is probably odd. I remember when I got mine. It was an empty sort of accomplishment. Felt more pride when I got my MMMS card.

Anyway. I just want one card. I don’t want to give up paper money; I like paper money. But I want one card with all my info. One mag stripe, fifteen functions. I’d still carry a wallet, because a man needs to reach for something when the occasion requires. To pay a bill, cover a check, buy a drink. Reach for it.

Just remembered one of my first wallets: it was a perfect 1970s wallet. Brown. Synthetic. It was covered with a nubby substance that gripped the inside of your pocket, and was sold as theft-resistant. I’m not sure why I bought it, since Fargo wasn’t crawling with dips who’d jostle you on the bus and twinkle-finger your roll out of your back pocket. Not that they’d bother with me. Library card. Driver’s license. A few pictures. When you’re a kid you’re desperate to fill up your wallet, to show you’re part of the world.

When you’re adult you look at the cards, and think: insurance against this. Insurance against that. Insurance against toothache. Insurance against dead batteries. I’m covered. I’m set. I’m safe.

But as I said, I need a new wallet. The only one conformed, as they all do, to the shape of my body. It curved. It slipped into the contours of the space it was supposed to inhabit. And in doing so, it cracked the corner every talisman it contained.



Listening to Thomas Dolby’s new album. When artists take a few decade between albums you expect they’ve come up with a melody or two while they were out. It’s like reading a book from an author who took 20 years to write his next novel, and the opening line is “The night was dark, as well as stormy.” I suppose I like it enough to listen to the entire thing (via Spotify) since it’s familiar, and familiar in a way I’d forgotten. Everyone knows him from “She Blinded Me With Science,” of course, and rightly so. A perfect 80s song. SCIENCE! The follow-up, “The Flat Earth,” was not what people expected, if they expected bouncy off-kilter “synth pop.” It was full of dark lyrical portraits you get when people stay in LA too long and decide they have to write about this . . . this . . . hold on, it’ll come to me - this dichotomy between the sunny landscape and the dark troubles of its inhabitants. That’s it! Also, Hollywood illusions do not measure up to real life. And a lot of people are doing drugs.

What is it about LA that makes artists start troweling on the noir? The weather’s too good? Too many good-looking people enjoying the moment? Too many over-the-hill people lamenting the present? The sense that everything’s upended and remade every day? The absence of a center, this collection of places and boundaries strung together by nothing more than concrete capillaries? The belief, fostered by innumerable movies and TV shows, that thousands of hopeful people arrive daily, faces shining, ready to be Stars, only to end up living in a two-story apartment building with a rattling air-conditioning unit and a landlord-lady who wears a smock all day and yells at people to turn it down when she’s not sitting in a plastic-covered La-Z-Boy eating chocolates and reading gossip mags and smushing flies with a plastic bug-swatter? This would be Colorful and Eccentric if it happened in New York, because outside the apartment there’s, well, New York, the city that works really well in montage sequences. But what’s outside the LA apartment? A tire shop, a nails shop, a chain restaurant, and the Mocking Palm Tree that promises tropical pleasures but exists only to remind you that the iconic imagery of the city can’t even provide shade.

Yeah. Or not. Haven’t spent enough time to begin to answer it; just know it from the movies and the books, and a walk around the hotel where I cooled my heels before taking a flight back from the Panama Cruise jaunt. There was an impressively Seventies office block:


That’s what I think about when I think “LA,” because that’s what you saw in shows that were Quinn Martin Productions. There was also a horrid Marriott:


The seventies styles loved to emphasize the mass at the top of the building, as if to depress your expectations. Buildings used to soar; now they came with shoebox lids.


A moment of silence for the 2007 Sony Handycam, which has developed a fatal condition. It cannot read tapes. After weeks of feeding it one cassette after the other, it will have no more. I can’t tell you how happy I am to be done with tapes, period - the whine of the camera as the door opened, like a mosquito attempting to pass a LEGO brick, was always annoying. Every time you put in the tape you wondered if it would have some problem with the head, and you’d get that clear, perfectly understandable error:


Oh, that? Drat. PLEASE REINSERT THE CASSETTE. You push reject, it whines, it pops out the tape, you put it back in. Same thing. You open it up and advance the tape with a pen, turning the sprockets. Back in. Same thing.

So all this is lost, then. You look at the tape: it’s like the locked-away memories I blathered about yesterday. Light struck my loved ones, my house, my dog, my world, flowed in through the lens, was reconfigured to ones and zeroes and sprayed on this fragile tape. And now it’s unreadable. Or is it just the camera? Shall I go to the neighborhood store that transfers tapes to DVD, and beg them: doctor can you do something? I’ll pay anything.

Hell no. I already edited these tapes. This was the tail-end of the raw-footage capture project, and if there’s ten hours of raw tape that don’t get captured, we can soldier on. The project is done. Out goes the camera; out go the boxes of tapes. I can only imagine how I’d feel if I hadn’t edited these things, if I’d decided after all these years to start capturing the past in digital form only to find that everything had degraded to uselessness.

Would she care?

Because it’s all for her, you know. It’s all a big flying leap. An assumption. A belief that some day these things will be incredibly precious. Now they’re embarrassing. My hair is too short. I’m too fat. My room is full of stupid things. But it’s my hope that some day she will find all these movies, edited and set to music, a constant chronicle, and all the gaps will be filled in.


New! Comic Sins, and some additions to the OTR site, if you're interested. See you around.





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